Published 23 August 2016 by riderfitness.com.
As riders and trainers we should strive to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in balance.
A horse that is in balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually will be a willing partner. He will be comfortable to ride and there will be no fighting or struggling for control.
A trainer that is in balance in all four areas will be able to help the horse find balance, and a horse that is in balance will give confidence to a nervous rider and bring joy, health and harmony to the combination.
There is nowhere to hide emotionally with horses, they can read us instantly, and there is no faking it. Horses go where they find sincerity and authenticity and if we are in balance in all four areas we will be able to build a good relationship. The horse will be relaxed and self-confident in our company and will accept our leadership.
Horses are not naturally built to carry the weight of a rider.
A horse that is physically in balance will have learned to carry weight equally on all four limbs and will be able to bend and move equally to both sides. He will be able to perform all Straightness Training exercises equally on both reins and he will be developed symmetrically in body and limbs.
Here Whoopy has learned to move in balance and to turn on the circle. Whoopy is owned and trained by Carolin Moldenhauer, ST Instructor
The mental state of the horse can range from actively resistant to ignoring pressure, obedient, searching for a reward or release of pressure, to figuring out what we want and ultimately to being in synchronicity with us.
As trainers we need to bring the horse to a state of mind where he is ready and willing to learn, so that he knows there is something in it for him and that he enters the arena feeling good about himself and thinking ‘what am I going to learn today?’.
EmotionsThe emotional state of the horse will change when he carries his point of mass in his shoulders.
Moving unsupported around the trainer on the longe, with the point of mass on the inside shoulder will often cause unwanted behaviours ranging from simply an unhappy expression, with ears flat back, to quite extreme emotional responses, panicking, bucking and taking off.
The same will happen under saddle if the natural asymmetry of both horse and rider are not addressed.
Negative emotions in the horse can also be triggered by inconsistent training, too much pressure or badly timed aids, frustration, or anger from either the horse or the trainer.
SpiritThe spirit and dignity of the horse can so easily be lost when trainers don’t give the horse a voice. A horse that is constantly corrected for any small misdemeanour and not allowed any self-expression will eventually give up and shut down.
We need to be careful to preserve the spirit of the horse while giving him what he needs to grow in stature and self-confidence, to become a proud horse who enjoys his training.
Taking long breaks and spending time hanging out with your horse brings huge benefits to your relationship, it gives him time to process information and helps to preserve his dignity.
Horses will mirror the trainer’s emotional and mental state and they will also reflect our physical state, so it is important for us to be as healthy and fit as we can be.
Sports like tennis or golf will build up one side of the body more than the other, so are better combined with exercises that will help us develop in a symmetrical way. Pilates or yoga are ideal for core strength, flexibility and body awareness. Swimming, running, skipping or walking are also excellent. Martial arts like tai chi or aikido are a superb way of building core strength and fitness and they can also be hugely beneficial in teaching us to be grounded, an essential ability for a trainer.
Here Moon moves in balance, mirroring my energy and body language
Think first, act later. As the horse’s personal fitness trainer we should know the theory and have a clear inner picture and a well-thought out plan, so that we can go to the arena each day knowing exactly what we are going to teach our horse.
We need to be very grounded and to take care to offer the horse positive and empowering energy, thoughts and emotions.
Horses go where they find sincerity and authenticity so instead of constantly seeking approval, or worrying about the past or the future, we should learn to be in the present, to be true to our authentic self.
A mental state of growth and contribution to others, and not of achievement or significance, will give us meaning and fulfillment.
“One can have no greater mastery than mastery of oneself” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Find out more about all of these topics at Marijke de Jong’s Straightness Training website http://straightnesstraining.com.
Wendy Poore, Licensed Straightness Training Instructor with Marijke de Jong